By Brandon Scott
There are two schools of thought I have about gentrification, the known definition, and the emotion of gentrification. Based on how someone sees the process of gentrification will guide the school of thought an individual will fall into.
Gentrification has historically impacted a community and, like any change it is ripe with pros and cons. When a community shifts, there’s a clear demographic change that is frequently the cause of controversy. Gentrification often shifts a neighborhood’s racial/ethnic composition and average household income developing new, more expensive housing and cultivating pathways for businesses to a gentrified or gentrifying areas.
Those that are the recipients of gentrification most often feel a sense of loss, a subtype of grief. The process of gentrification doesn’t just change a community but it ushers in investment that past residents have wanted but denied, typically, due to the racial make-up of a community and the business perspective that developing in a “lower income” community isn’t supported by corresponding income demographics.
In response, residents grieve the loss of their community’s culture.
There are surely positives to new economic opportunities; however, the looming question is usually: ‘why now?’
The analogy to grief came to me as I was talking to a professional about the adoption process. Kids that are adopted feel and experience grief and loss differently. There’s the physical loss of their birth parent or parents, who may be a phone call or text away. This sense of limbo occurs, in respect, to individuals that live in a community that is being gentrified, their own type of loss.
Before a community’s very eyes, capital improvements that they’ve waited years for, now, parallel demographic changes in the community. Investment into economic centers like grocery stories, medical facilities and so much more begins to slowly spring up. And slowly, the spirit of their community begins to change as buyers, that traditionally would not have looked at a historically black community, for example, are now doing just that. In DC, many of those moves are due to a lack of housing and “affordable housing”. Keep in mind that affordable housing translates differently for DC.
To put this in perspective, in the USA the median home price is up to $317,000 versus, locally, in D.C., where the median home price is $645,000. Across the city, DC has over 4 zip codes where the median home price is now one million dollars.
The poster child for gentrification is New York City. Anyone with more than 20 years of life and access to the internet knows that New York, while a melting pot, was home to some notable black communities. Through time, those communities became more desirable given their location and proximity to, well, everything.
Plus, the grand size of the homes created a chance for palatial living for those with the money to put towards renovation. And, as the racial make-up changed in communities like Harlem and the Bronx so did the opportunity for economic investment into those communities.
Gentrification is a shift in a communities racial and ethnic composition and the introduction of business and resources. On the surface, making a community better is a good thing. Having more businesses and opportunities for growth, for everyone, is a win-win. However, the rub with gentrification is the knowledge gap. Everyone has a need for housing, which is certainly part of the equation, but a primary issue is what low-income communities don’t know and what they may not understand.
At the center of gentrification is housing and access. It goes back to what real estate is all about location, location, location. And history demonstrates this principle to be true. Whether it was fighting over land, spices, water resources, or women, as a society, we have historically been willing to “invade” someone else’s space and claim it as our own – it’s ingrained. Some argue that those hit hardest by gentrification are people that refuse to recognize the changes.
There are certainly pros and cons of gentrification but what sits as a priority, to me, is the need to close the knowledge gap between basic homeownership and the economic dance of asset management.
Brandon Scott is a licensed real estate agent in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. His license hangs with Coldwell Banker Dupont-Logan, DC. He’s been involved in the mortgage finance industry for the last 16 years in various fields. You can reach him by email at [email protected]. Subscribe to his YouTube Channel at RealTea DMV